TOLEDO, OH - Toledo overcame a 12-point second-half deficit and registered a thrilling 58-53 victory over Central Michigan on Sunday in Mid-American Conference action before 3,762 fans inside Savage Arena. With the come-from-behind win, the Rockets improve to 8-6 overall, 1-1 in the league.
Sophomore Andola Dortch led three UT players in double figures with 14 points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists. Junior co-captain Lecretia Smith contributed a season-high 13 points and a collegiate-best 15 caroms, while senior Haylie Linn totaled 12 points to help the 2011 WNIT champions post their sixth-straight home triumph over the Chippewas (9-7, 1-1 MAC).
The Midnight Blue & Gold also received nine points each from junior Yolanda Richardson and senior Courtney Ingersoll to avoid their first 0-2 start in MAC play since 2006-07.
CMU freshman sensation Crystal Bradford knocked down a jumper to give the visitors a 37-25 lead at the 15:30 mark of the second half, before UT began to mount its thrilling comeback. The Rockets outscored their division opponent 33-16 over the remainder of regulation to tally the come-from-behind triumph.
The 2010-11 MAC regular-season champions started the comeback with a 17-6 burst over the ensuing seven-plus minutes to trim the deficit to a single point, 43-42, at 7:58. Dortch and Linn tallied six points each to spark the run, while Richardson collected four points to make it a one-possession difference.
CMU countered with traditional three-point plays from Skylar Miller and Jessica Green to rebuild the cushion to five points, 49-44, with 5:42 showing on the clock.
UT dug deep and utilized a mini 6-0 run to assume its first lead, 50-49, at 3:12. Dortch split a pair of charity tosses to start the burst, followed by a Smith layup, one free throw from freshman Inma Zanoguera and the second-year point guard finished it off with a layup to bring the raucous crowd to their feet.
After the teams traded a pair of baskets, Toledo's Linn drained a long triple with the shot clock running down to push the lead to four points, 57-53, with 29 seconds left.
Central Michigan's Jordan LaDuke misfired on its ensuing field-goal attempt, and UT's Richardson secured the rebound to preserve the victory.
CMU immediately fouled and Dortch split a free throws in the waning seconds to make the final score 58-53.
Bradford paced the Chippewas with a game-high 23 points and 10 boards, shooting 11-of-26 from the field. The only other CMU player in double figures was Green with 12 points. Central Michigan came into today's divisional showdown second in the league in scoring offense, averaging 72.6 ppg.
CMU was limited to 30.4 percent (21-of-69) shooting from the field, including 28.1 percent (9-of-32) in the second half and 0-of-5 from three-point land, to suffer its first conference loss.
In the first stanza, Central Michigan raced out a 20-7 lead at the 11:04 mark. Toledo did not help its own cause and went almost six minutes without a field goal at one stretch to help the visitors build an early double-digit lead.
The Rockets needed a spark to get themselves back in the contest, and they responded with a 12-2 run to close the gap to 22-19 at 3:55. Smith, Richardson, Ingersoll, Dortch and Linn each converted field goals to make it a one-possession game.
The Chippewas took a timeout to end the Rockets' momentum and it worked to perfection. CMU ended the opening period with an 8-3 burst to assume a 30-22 lead at the intermission. Bradford sparked the run with four of her team-high 15 points in the final three-plus minutes to make it a three-possession difference at the break.
Central Michigan then opened the second half with a 7-3 spurt to rebuild a double-digit lead before UT countered with the game-changing 33-16 run to earn its first MAC victory of the season.
The Rockets return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 11 when they host MAC West Division rival Eastern Michigan. The opening tip is slated for 7:00 p.m. from Savage Arena.
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